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 Scottish news was in high demand in England for Shakespeare’s lifetime. From 1580 onwards, the same years Shakespeare was writing about Scotland in plays like Henry VI Part 1 and later Macbeth, which features Scotland prominently, the rate of news about events in Scotland being published in England skyrocketed. This increase can be attributed to an expansion in news publications over a broader landscape, but events involving Mary Queen of Scots and her son future James VI, including rumors that Elizabeth I of England wanted to kidnap the baby James and England sending an army to Scotland, all added fuel to the fire of political relationships between the two countries that was written about furiously in this period. Shakespeare’s works reflect this cultural moment when we see Lepidus in Antony and Cleopatra is saying, “Here’s more news” from Act I Scene 4, in the early 1600s, along with over 300 additional references to “new” in Shakespeare’s plays. Here with us today to share with us what news stories were the biggest headlines for this period, as well as what the surviving printed works of news tell us about the relationship between Scotland and England for the late 16th and early 17th century is our guest and author of “Newes from Scotland” in England, 1559–1602 for the Huntington Library Quarterly, Amy Blakeway.  

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Dr Amy Blakeway is a Senior Lecturer in Scottish History at the University of St Andrews, where she teaches and researches sixteenth-century Scotland. She is the author of two books, Regency in Sixteenth-Century Scotland and Parliament and Convention in the Personal Rule of James V of Scotland, 1528-1542.   

I’ll be asking Amy Blakeway about:

  • During Shakespeare’s lifetime, Elizabeth I dispatched an army to Scotland, and some of the news printed about Scotland includes Elizabeth’s own publication explaining her presence there. Amy, what was the official relationship between England and Scotland during the late 16th century and before the reign of James I? Had they been enemies, were they now allies?  
  • Amy writes that Scotland was, obviously, a foreign country to England in Shakespeare’s lifetime, but that the affairs of Scotland related to Mary Queen of Scots and James VI, specifically, were of urgent domestic significance. Amy’s work cites the pamphlet Leicester’s Commonwealth, as an example of how Scotland’s newsworthy events were of prime importance in England. Amy, explain this pamphlet to us, who published it, and was it banned in Scotland?  
  • What was the time delay between when events occurred and when the news publications reached England? What time frame constitutes “current events” for Shakespeare’s lifetime in terms of published news stories? 
  • …and more!

Holindshed’s Chronicles

The Holinshed Chronicles Project

We discuss the following two books in the episode but unfortunately they are only available behind a paywall on Early English Books Online (EEBO).

The Aesop image: The fabulous tales of Esope the Phrygian, Euery tale moralized most aptly to this present time, worthy to be read.. compiled moste eloquently in Scottishe metre by Master Robert Henrison, & now lately Englished. ; – Early English Books Online – ProQuest – it’s not the one which says ‘corrected’ on the  frontispiece though, that’s David Lindsay which is also on EEBO.

Introduction – Aldis updated | National Library of Scotland (nls.uk)

A dialogue betweene experience and a courtier, of the miserable estate of the worlde first compiled in the Schottishe tongue, by Syr Dauid Lyndsey … ; now newly corrected, and made perfit Englishe … ; hereunto are anexid certaine other pithy pieces of woorkes inuented by the said knight … – Early English Books Online – ProQuest

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Inside the Detailed Show Notes This Week:

  • Copy of Leister’s Commonwealth
  • Quotes from Shakespeare’s plays about Scotland
  • Excerpts from “Newes from Scotland” published in 1591
  • 16th century Battle of Lepanto engraving
  • 16th century woodcut descibed as “oral rumors from travellers”
  • Marriage contract of James I and Anne of Denmark
  • 15th century Nuremberg Chronicle
  • Images of Aesop’s Fables from the 16th century
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That’s it for this week! Thank you for listening. I’m Cassidy Cash, and I hope you learn something new about the bard. I’ll see you next time!